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Two land brokers arrested for forest encroachment

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
The two suspects (centre) are arrested for illegally clearing forest land. Rasmei News

Kampong Chhnang Provincial Military Police on Sunday arrested two men who allegedly cleared and encroached on a protected flooded forest area without approval from relevant authorities.

Major Sour Borin, commander of Kampong Leng district military police, identified the suspects as Chhoum Siab, 40, living in Battambang province’s Moung Russey district and Varn Hing, 36, from Pursat province’s Bakan district. Both are land brokers.

Earlier this month, Maj Borin said the suspects drove two tractors to clear about 20 hectares of protected land along the Tonle Sap lake in Kampong Leng district’s Por village.

As they continued clearing land, an environment protection official who was stationed at the area saw them on Sunday and immediately alerted the district military police about the intrusion.

Military police were later deployed in the area, along with provincial environmental officers and the deputy prosecutor of Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court who ordered for the immediate halt of the illegal operation.

After inspecting the suspects, police found no document authorising the clearing of the land. The suspects were arrested thereafter, said Maj Borin.

“They were arrested after military police discovered that they cleared the state-protected forest land for private ownership without the approval of relevant provincial or ministerial authorities,” said Maj Borin. “Police seized two tractors and other land-clearing equipment at the scene.”

According to Maj Borin, the suspects could be charged with “illegal clearance and encroachment on state-protected forests for private occupation” under Article 62 of the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management.

If convicted, they each face up to five years in prison and a fine from $3,750 to $37,500 to be allocated in the State’s budget.

The suspects will be sent to provincial court today after being detained at the provincial military police headquarters.

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